Circular hiking trails in South Estonia (part I)

Source: Martin Kosseson

Circular hiking trails in South Estonia (part I)

Circular hiking trails are the crème de la crème of day hikes. You don't need to worry about your return transport or walk back the exact same way. Circular hiking trails give you the chance to get to know the landscape of a particular area more closely than usual. And they come with the extra satisfaction of finishing your route exactly where you started! Here are 15 hiking trails in South Estonia that take you through versatile and magical landscapes, from forest trails and river banks to hills and wetlands.

Lähte health track

Tartu maakond, Lähte alevik

Lähte health track, located 15 km from Tartu, is open 24 h; tracks are lit until 10 pm. Lähte has tracks in various lengths that can be used for skiing, running, Nordic walking and bicycling. The longest track is 5 km long. Health track starts from the watch tower near Lähte sports hall.

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The Emajõgi River study trail

Tartu maakond, Kavastu küla

The 3 km long and 1.2 m wide study trail begins and ends at the Kantsi Tavern / Emajõgi-Suursoo Nature Centre and takes you to a flood plain by the river, a hayfield in a sedge-covered swamp, and through a birch grove. The trail has three recreational areas (where you can camp) and an observation tower. It takes about an hour to complete the trail. The study trail is part of the Lake Peipus Nature Reserve. The main assets of Peipsiveere, formerly known as Emajõe-Suursoo Nature Reserve, are its diverse wet habitats and the large marshland in the delta of River Emajõgi. The nature reserve in under protection since 1981. The Kavastu raft is nearby.

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RMK Taevaskoja–Otteni–Taevaskoja hiking trail

Põlva maakond, Taevaskoja küla

The hiking trail, which starts from Suur Taevaskoda, runs on the high banks of the Ahja River and on the tracks of the beloved movie The Last Relic. Suur Taevaskoda, the partially preserved Otten or Valgesoo watermill complex, the two-vaulted Otten mill bridge, the miniature canyon, which became famous thanks to the film The Last Relic, picturesque views of the Ahja River, and the hollow of the forest brothers' bunker can be seen on the hiking trail. The trail is marked with green colour on the trees and signs, and there are several information boards on the trail. It is possible to camp and make a campfire at the Otten campfire site. When coming by car, the hike starts from Saesaare car park and therefore, the trail is about 2 km longer.

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RMK Voorepalu Põrgurada trail

Põlva maakond, Voorepalu küla

The hiking trail, which is suitable for a pleasant walk, starts on the other side of the road opposite the Voorepalu campfire site and runs along an extremely varied landscape with several steep ascents and descents. The trail has information boards introducing past events and folklore and the highest point of the trail has a table and benches for resting. Rope railings have been installed on the steep slopes of the trail.The historical Postal Road runs between the campfire site and the hiking trail. Ristimänd tree and many other exciting places are on the trail with a varied landscape. Two cars can park at the campfire site.

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Tilleoru nature trail

Põlva maakond, Varbuse küla

The Tilleoru nature trail starts in Tilleorg valley and runs for 4.5 km along the area's floodplain before passing through coniferous forests and eventually reaching Merioone spring. A nature reserve, situated in the headwaters of the Ahja River, on the stretch between Tille and the Möksi; the area's windmill was established in 1957. Founded to preserve the landscape’s integrity, the reserve protects the forests growing on the banks of the Ahja River. With the forests' area covering the nearby valleys, hills and on valley brinks – the entire area is a real jewel of nature. Did you know...?: People originally believed that Merioone spring reached the sea; this is how it got its name.

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Hiking trail in the Meenikunno bog

Põlva maakond, Nohipalo küla

Cabins for hikers, an observation tower and a boardwalk attract many nature lovers to the Meenikunno bog. It is a beautiful recreation area. While walking down the boardwalk, you can see the most common bog plants: leather leaf, bog rosemary, crowberry, Marsh Labrador tea, and tussock cottongrass; at the edge of the bog, dwarf birches can also be found. There are also a number of different species of peat moss of various colours. The bravest hikers can try drinking bog water (it has an interesting taste!) from the overgrown ditch near the edge of the bog. Good to know: A new boardwalk has been constructed for the Meenikunno hiking trail extending from Päikeseloojangu forest cabin to Lake Suur Soojärv. The boardwalk is pram and wheelchair accessible.

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Ähijärve nature trail

Võru maakond, Ähijärve küla

The 3.5 km Ähijärve nature study trail starts at Karula Nature Centre, where there is a nice playground for children and a nature trail. The network of roads around Lake Ähijärv was once very dense and different from what we can see now. Ähijärve nature trail will take you to roads once used by many people and you can imagine what they looked like: a road on the pasture, Ähijärve shore path, footpath, forest roads, winter roads, horse roads. The southern part of Ähijärve area is covered with Peräjärve-Labassaare forests. Standing on the shore of the lake, you can see the southernmost tops of the Karula Upland – Lossi, Korgemägi and Plaagi hill to the west across the lake.

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Kütiorg hiking trail

Võru maakond, Koloreino küla

The hiking trail starts at the parking lot near Kütiorg Ski Resort. The trail is very varied and the landscape is fairly steep and difficult to cross. Therefore, you should make sure you have about 4–5 hours for it. The trail provides the best overview of the largest and most powerful ancient valley in Estonia – Kütiorg. Visitors will also learn about old mills and other cultural heritage objects. The forests on the slopes of Kütiorg are home to spruce woods that are more than a century old, as well as uniquely thick and high aspens. There is also a campfire site with a barbeque spot near the starting point of the trail.

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Apteekrimäe forest trail

Valga maakond, Otepää linn

Apteekrimäe forest track starts and ends by Otepää Sports Hall on Mäe Street. The 4 km track runs through the forest to Nüpli Sports Track and then back to the Apteekri forest, where it meets the forest path between Lake Marguse and Otepää Garden Town before returning to its starting point after crossing the Sulaoja bridge. The track can be used all year round.

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Study trail at Lake Parika Väikejärv

Viljandi maakond, Aimla küla

The trail at Lake Parika Väikejärv is famous for its heart-shaped bog lake. The trail runs through the forest and rises to the brink of the bog, where you can have a picnic or a rejuvenating swim in the bog lake. The circular trail goes around the lake, passing bog pools and places that are rich in berries. The wide trail, which is covered with wood chips, is excellent for groups and people with reduced mobility.

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Hüpassaare study trail

Viljandi maakond, Karjasoo küla

The 5-kilometre long Hüpassaare hiking trail winds through stunning forest to the Kuresoo bog. The trail starts at a camping site, where it is also possible to grill. The boardwalk passes through a landscape of unique, oval-shaped bog pools to a viewing platform where you can rest your legs and admire the tranquility of the bog. The boardwalk then takes you to a bog island, where you can observe the resident crows flying back and forth, and onto a meadow covered with a scattering of trees. At the end of the trail, you will find the Mart Saar Museum.

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Ingatsi nature study trail

Viljandi maakond, Sandra küla

The 3 km Ingatsi nature study trail starts at Karuskose before winding its way through the forest to Kuresoo bog, which, at 8 metres, is Europe's highest bog. The viewing platform offers beautiful views over the bog landscape, including the surrounding Toonoja forests. The boardwalk then continues on around picturesque pools, meandering through the bog before directing walkers back the way they came. The full hike takes at least 1.5 hours. The trail has a number of rest areas in which you can rest your legs and take a dip in the refreshing waters.

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Beaver trail in Soomaa National Park

Viljandi maakond, Tipu küla

Starting from the Soomaa National Park Visitor Centre, the Beaver trail takes you through the woods to see a number of beaver lodges and dams. With plenty of evidence of beaver activity throughout the entire trail, it won't be long until you'll find chopped down trees and all sorts of den construction before finishing the trail surrounded by a variety of native plants.

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